PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Hiding in Plain Sight: Don't Underestimate Jeff Teat


This article appears in the April 2020 edition of US Lacrosse Magazine. This story went to press March 6 and appears as it appears in the magazine, which hits homes later this month. Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, we are committed to telling the best stories in lacrosse and recognizing those players who have achieved excellence. Read why in editor-in-chief Matt DaSilva's latest columnDon’t get the mag? Head to USLacrosse.org to subscribe.

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eff Teat can’t get a break.

On his first drive to the goal, the Cornell senior attackman gets slammed to the turf at Towson’s Johnny Unitas Stadium. He endures more slashes, pushes and double teams in one quarter than most players could bear in a season. Even when he does find a sliver of space, his shot clangs off the left pipe. 

You wouldn’t notice the struggles based on Teat’s expression. Of all his skills — his vision, his passing — his patience might be the most valuable. 

“That’s his personality coming through in his game,” says Brodie Merrill, the director of lacrosse at The Hill Academy in Ontario, where the box lacrosse-bred Teat fine-tuned his field game. “He’s very steady and even keeled. He reminds you a little of Tom Schreiber because he’s not above making the right play and is really surgical in many ways.” 

Teat shows off that precision by not showing off. He doesn’t force the offense or press for points. Instead, on this cold Friday afternoon in February, he motions the Big Red to slow down like a quarterback quiets a raucous crowd.

He lets his gravitational pull create room for his teammates.

He occupies all of All-American Koby Smith’s attention, which opens a lane for senior faceoff specialist Paul Rasimowicz’s first goal of the season.

Teat sets a pick for freshman attackman Michael Long, who runs off it to score his first collegiate goal. 

“It starts with Jeff,” junior midfielder Jonathan Donville says about a Cornell offense that averaged 18.5 goals through the first four games of the season. “When your best player is so unselfish, it leads to everybody doing it. Guys don’t care where the points come from.”


“When your best player is so unselfish, it leads to everybody doing it. Guys don’t care where the points come from.”


Teat’s impact can’t be quantified by the fact he reached 100 career points faster than any other four-year player in NCAA history. He possesses a quality that only the greats have. He makes the players around him better. He led the Hill Academy to an undefeated season and No. 1 ranking in North America his senior year in 2016, when the Pride were featured in Sports Illustrated.

“I just try to play off my teammates,” Teat said back then. 

While Teat has since garnered no shortage of accolades, Inside Lacrosse’s No. 1 ranked recruit in his class and the three-time All-American somehow now seems underrated. When IL compiled a list of the best 50 players in the college game before this season, Teat was 29th. It follows a trend of pundits souring on Teat.

“Hahahahahahahahahaha teat at 29th,” Joel Tinney bellowed on Instagram.

Tinney wasn’t laughing at his Canadian national team teammate. He was disagreeing with whoever put together the list for the magazine.

“I was pretty disappointed in that ranking,” Tinney says. “I don’t think Jeff is getting any credit right now, which is ridiculous.”

According to Tinney, the disrespect stems from appearances.

“This guy doesn’t look like an athlete,” he says. “He looks like he might be a skateboarder. With a soaking wet t-shirt on, he’s probably 140 pounds.”

Teat’s size — he’s listed at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds — belies his strength. He has added 10 pounds of muscle since he arrived in Ithaca. His gait, which resembles a shuffle more than a sprint, disguises his quickness.

Merrill remembers when Teat, then a high school sophomore, beat him in a 300-yard shuttle test at The Sports Village in Vaughan, Ontario.

“If you do underestimate him, he’ll make you pay,” Merrill says. “He opened my eyes a bit that day.”








Teat’s numbers for the Brampton Excelsiors are equally eye-opening. He averaged 7.6 points a game in 2018 — his final year playing in the Junior A lacrosse league. Dan Teat, Jeff’s dad, who accrued 670 points in a 14-year National Lacrosse League career, coached him in Junior A and last summer on the Excelsiors’ Senior A team in Major Series Lacrosse.

“I feel like I’ve learned the most from watching him play,” Jeff Teat says.

He also learned from his dad to put his head down and work hard. He watched NLL legend John Tavares crack jokes in the locker room, then be the most focused player on the floor.

“We’re having a lot of fun out there, which makes things easier,” Teat says of this spring with the Big Red. “We make sure to keep it light but still keep that focus.”

Still, the skills lauded in the box game can get overlooked outdoors. 

“We really have an appreciation for dodgers, and not necessarily passers and finishers in the Americanized Division I game,” says Andy Towers, coach of the Premier Lacrosse League’s Chaos. “Because of that, Jeff Teat isn’t adequately appreciated.”

Those who have played with Teat understand what makes him such a talent. 

“His IQ of the game is Tom Brady-like in the way he thinks about the sport and how many steps he is ahead of the defense,” Tinney says.




PHOTO BY RICH BARNES


Against Towson, for example, Teat dodges underneath from the left wing on one of the Big Red’s first possessions. He feigns the same move in the second quarter, then sprints to the middle and threads an assist through the defense to Long on the backside. 

Teat finishes with just two points, adding a goal in Cornell’s 17-10 win. Two days later, he has three goals and four assists in a 21-11 win against High Point to reach 250 points. He’s unaware of the accomplishment until Mark Wittink, Cornell’s director of player development, notifies him after the game.

“The best players don’t worry about their stats,” Towers says.  

While projected as a No. 1 overall pick in the NLL draft, Teat was ranked 10th overall on ESPN analyst Paul Carcaterra’s PLL big board. Merrill politely disagrees. He watched Teat grow from the quiet “rink rat” with incredible stick skills hanging around while his dad played at Century Gardens to one of the best players in the world.

Merrill describes playing with Teat at the 2018 world championship in Netanya, Israel, as “surreal.” Teat was Canada’s top scorer despite being the team’s youngest player.

If Andy Copelan needs any advice about Waterdogs’ draft strategy, Merrill knows whom he’d pick.

“I’m hoping I get a chance to play with him in the summer,” Merrill says of Teat, who he says feels like a younger brother. “That would be really special.”